FACTS & STATS: Site: Bright House Networks Stadium (45,301) -- Orlando, Florida. Television: CSS. Home Record: FIU 1-0, UCF 0-0. Away Record: FIU 0-1 0-0, UCF 1-1. Neutral Record: FIU 0-0, UCF 0-0. Conference Record: FIU 0-0, UCF 0-0. Series Record: FIU leads 1-0.
GAME NOTES: UCF returns home from the Buckeye State to Bright House Networks Stadium, where a battle with instate opponent FIU awaits.
Although not playing a team in Ohio, FIU is coming off a game from the state after escaping with a 41-38 win in overtime over Akron last weekend. The win was the first of the season for the Panthers, who were the favorites coming into the season to win the Sun Belt conference. So far FIU is off to a slower start than last season when the squad won its first three games, including a victory over this same UCF team.
UCF traveled to Ohio Stadium last weekend to face off with nationally ranked Ohio State and the week before made its season debut, also against Akron. Following a win over the Zips, UCF failed to have the same level of success against the Buckeyes and fell 31-16. The Knights are now 0-7 all-time against teams from the Big Ten. UCF had won back-to-back games against teams from automatic qualifying BCS conferences entering the contest.
FIU's win against UCF last season was in the first ever meeting between the two programs. The Panthers came away with a 17-10 win on their home field.
The Panthers got locked up in a back-and-forth affair against Akron in their most recent matchup. The game featured six lead changes and two ties including the 38-38 ledger at the end of regulation. Jack Griffin ended up as the hero of the game as the senior place-kicker nailed a pair of clutch field goals to send FIU home with a win. The first was a 30-yarder as time in regulation expired and the second (29 yards) put the game away in overtime.
For all of Griffin's late-game heroics, it would be a mistake to overlook the performance of quarterback Jake Medlock who carried the offense all game. Medlock completed 19-of-30 passes for 209 yards and a score and also led the team with 141 rushing yards. For good measure the sophomore also scored a touchdown on the ground. Medlock's rushing total set a school record by a quarterback. In all Medlock accounted for 350 of the Panthers' 441 total yards on the day.
FIU might have been able to pull the game out in regulation if it could have been more consistent on third down (4-for-18) or in the red zone where the Panthers only twice came away with touchdowns.
The squad's defensive effort also disallowed any chance of an easy victory. FIU surrendered 411 total yards in the game and was especially susceptive to big pass plays with Akron averaging 11.6 yards-per-completion. The Panthers' defense also became far too easy to score on close to the goal line with Akron a perfect 5-for-5, including four touchdowns, in the red zone.
Johnathan Cyprien was the team's leader in tackles with 11, including nine solo efforts. Paul Crawford did well up front with 1.5 sacks and two total tackles for loss to go along with his five takedowns overall. Greg Hickman had only one tackle but his interception was a big play in the game.
It would have been a lot to ask of UCF to take down Ohio State in Ohio Stadium but the Knights have to feel reasonably good about the effort they put forth in the loss. UCF had 352 total yards on offense and lost mainly due to an inability to secure the ball. Quarterback Blake Bortles was intercepted three times which overshadowed an otherwise strong effort (25-for-41, 249 yards, 2 TDs).
J.J. Worton was Bortles' favored receiver in the game with seven receptions for 96 yards, although he did not factor directly in the scoring. Both passing touchdowns in the game for the Knights occurred from the one-yard line. Those score were two of only three scores in the red zone for the Knights.
Those struggles were not due to a failure to find success on the ground, as the squad managed 103 yards on 21 carries. Storm Johnson led the way with 75 yards on 12 attempts, but couldn't make up for the Knights' dedication to passing once they fell behind.
On defense UCF had no answer for Ohio State's talented dual-threat quarterback Braxton Miller. The Knights were ripped up for 411 total yards in the game and Miller was responsible for 296 of those. Miller ran for 141 yards and three scores and also completed 18-of-24 passes for 155 yards and an additional touchdown.
With such a dangerous threat on the field, the Knights were constantly preoccupied and thus unable to offer resistance especially near the end zone, allowing the Buckeyes to put together a perfect 4-for-4 performance in the red zone.
Three different UCF players had double-digit tackle totals in the game, led by Terrance Plummer who had 15 including one for a loss. Kemal Ishmael and Clayton Geathers were the other two with 10 apiece.
Revenge may be on tap for UCF in this matchup. The Knights are coming off a stern test in a road game against a nationally ranked opponent. FIU will not pose nearly as much of a challenge although the Knights need to do a better job against Medlock than they did against Miller to be able to take down the Panthers.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: UCF 33, FIU 17Game Date and Time
Saturday, September 15, 4:00 p.m. (et)